Now that the dust has settled and the lockout is upon us, this is a great time to recap the NBA draft to determine the collecting impact it possesses.
For the first two picks, the 2011 NBA Draft went exactly as expected with Kyrie Irving going to Cleveland and Derrick Williams landing in Minnesota. From there, many teams made unexpected picks or traded spots to snag the players they wanted.
The following list looks at the top 2011 rookies (or half of the top 2012 rookies should this season end up not happening), when the new season begins. Consistent minutes are a huge factor in the NBA as even the best prospects can start near the bottom of the depth chart. These players have the best chance at getting that much-needed playing time.
This guy is a phenomenal player and will get a lot of playing time as he transitions to the NBA game. As the number one pick, collectors will immediately target his cards and he will carry the Class of 2011 when the first new cards come out. Irving is a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.
Some of this depends on Michael Beasley's role on the Timberwolves because he will take minutes from Williams. If Beasley is dealt as expected, Williams will see huge minutes at the three. These minutes should increase his production as the season progresses and he gets used to his position change. Williams represents the best option to beat out Irving for ROY and will push Irving for highest rookie card values.
Although he may have picked a bad year to move over to the NBA, Rubio will immediately see strong minutes at the point for a team filled with talent. Rubio was originally drafted in 2009 but continued to play in Spain. His transition to the NBA won't be smooth, but the excitement for his arrival will allow some leeway. Because he was drafted a couple of years ago, Rubio's rookie cards are already widely available. The cards have picked up in interest and value now that he has committed to joining the team this season. Expect more of those cards to start appearing and build in value throughout the year. Check out our article about some of his best rookie cards.
This spot is based much less on projected production and much more on projected hobby value. Tyreke Evans will remain the starting point guard, but Fredette will push Marcus Thornton for minutes at shooting guard. Based on reputation alone, Fredette will command a strong following from the start, making him an ideal player to pull and flip while his value is still high.
Knight was projected to go as high as number three, so the Pistons received good value with their pick at eight. He could start earlier than anticipated, since Rodney Stuckey failed to live up to expectations at point guard for the Pistons last season. His talent, combined with the Kentucky fanbase and John Calipari lineage, should guarantee he's on of the top-collected rookies for 2011.
Kanter was a great pick but the Jazz are already deep at the power forward position. They would love to move Kanter to center. He is a strong long-term prospect with the Jazz and could form a formidable duo with Derrick Favors. Utah will not be an easy place for Kanter to gain widespread hobby interest. He already faces obstacles as a European player but, as the number three pick, Kanter should command a good amount of attention. Depending on how things play out for the Jazz's roster, Kanter could really be anywhere on this list.
Despite uncertainty about his NBA position, Walker can score when it matters and showed in college he can carry his team to victory. Walker will come off the bench a lot and should show good production with his minutes. His college successes will keep him relevant in the hobby long enough to show what he can do in the NBA.
Another player whose 2011 value hinges on a roster change, Thompson has the potential to be a strong performer if the Warriors end up trading Monta Ellis. Thompson is one of the best pure shooters from the draft and should work well playing alongside Stephen Curry. Golden State is another place that is not ideal for hobby interest but Stephen Curry and, to a lesser degree, Monta Ellis, have done well there.
Burks showed he could score in bunches while at Colorado. He should get a good share of the minutes at shooting guard and could also see minutes at small forward. Lacking a strong three-point shot hurts his appeal. However, Burks will be near the top of the depth chart by default and could win a starting role. Burks is the biggest uncertainty on this list from a hobby perspective but his potential, combined with a starting possibility, is too much to overlook. If he can get his minutes, Burks will make enough waves to be noticed by collectors.
Nicknamed the "European Blake Griffin" because of his aggressive play and highlight-reel dunks, Veselý played both small forward and power forward overseas and could play both for Washington. Additionally, the Wizards would love for him to push Andray Blatche at PF for minutes. Veselý joins a Wizards team ripe with hobby potential and should add more to the fold as he develops, especially given the opportunity to form an intriguing alley-oop duo with John Wall.
- Best Long-Term Prospect: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Biggest Lottery Bust: Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Bobcats
- Most Underrated Prospect: Jordan Hamilton, Denver Nuggets
- Biggest Selection for Immediate Championship Run: Norris Cole, Miami Heat
- Best Sleeper Pick: Marshon Brooks, New Jersey Nets
- Biggest Steal: Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
- Best Twin Tandem: Tough call, but looks to be the Morris brothers (poor attempt at humor)
- Most Overblown Draft Moment: Jan Veselý kisses girlfriend and time stands still